In the last decade, drones have captivated childrens’ imaginations around the world. While some may see drones as expensive toys, many high schools and universities around the country have identified drone technology as a growing opportunity to get students excited about school and interested in future STEM careers.
The implementation of UAS technology into K-12 curriculums provides students with a hands-on and engaging experience where they learn high-tech jobs while solving real world problems. Drone programs also teach technical skills like programming, engineering, and software coding, by combining disciplines including robotics, mathematics, and computer science. Additionally, drone programs serve as excellent opportunities to further develop skills like hand-eye coordination, critical thinking, and collaboration with a group. These skills are directly transferable to the students’ futures in both education and their eventual careers.
Along with providing these students a background in STEM fields, drones also highlight real world applications for these new skills. Students are exposed to industries such as agriculture, aerospace, construction, and more as they are tasked with finding solutions to problems that their professional counterparts are faced with every day. Engaging with real world applications of drone technology also helps to bridge the gap between emerging technologies and traditional industries, and exposes students to potential career paths in STEM fields.
The applications highlighted by the curriculum vary depending on the school and region, which helps keep drones relevant to the lives of students. For example, students attending school in a rural area may learn applications of drones in farming, such as using them to spot specific areas of fields that need chemical treatment instead of treating the entire field with chemicals. A drone program by the coast may feature additional applications in conservation, such as mapping coral reefs or tracking seal populations. Solving problems immediately relevant to their surrounding areas or industries can drive home how drone technology can help students in their future careers, even if they ultimately specialize in a field other than drones.
If students do choose to pursue careers in the drone industry, they will become heavily sought-after recruits for firms. According to a report by the Goldman Sachs Group, the unmanned market is projected to grow to $100 billion by 2020, and over 103,000 new jobs will have been created by 2025. This growth will require many trained professionals with drone experience to fill the demand for drone pilots and engineers within the industry. In addition, starting salaries can be as high as $85,000 for remote pilots, which presents an excellent career opportunity for young students once they finish their education.
Colleges are also taking notice of the growing interest in drone pilot programs. Dozens of colleges across the country have begun to offer classes on UAS systems, and many also offer training and preparation courses to help students get their drone pilots’ licenses. 23 schools in the United States, Canada and Britain have also partnered with the F.A.A. to carry out drone-based research programs. These programs are geared for new students to learn drone safety and flight skills, or for professionals seeking a change in career path.
While the implementation of unmanned technology in public education sounds like a fantastic way to get students excited for math and science and set them up for professional life, is it financially feasible for schools to adopt these programs? Contrary to popular belief, many quality drone options currently exist on the market for under $200. Many of these offerings are incredibly cost effective and friendly to school districts, and some are even packaged with educational software or exercises to supplement classroom curriculum. The development of the drone industry will only continue to bring these entry costs down, and refine the educational programming accompanying the drone purchases.
The benefits of the implementation of a drone program into American education greatly outweigh the potential costs. Students will learn how to think critically and work together to effectively solve problems, while learning important technical skills that will give them a jumpstart in their careers and secondary education. This hands-on approach to learning will also help to engage and excite students in ways that traditional school curriculums currently cannot. Getting kids excited about STEM education is a huge step towards developing future generations that are equipped to solve the problems facing people all over the world, and sets them up for success after they graduate. As the financial commitment to these programs remains relatively inexpensive, the only remaining roadblock to the creation of further drone programs is the discretion of the districts themselves.